Thursday, February 13, 2014

Weirdest city list ever?

Mural in downtown Kings Mountain. Photo: Nancy Pierce
We all love to look at those lists of "Best Places To ... " I plead guilty as charged. But this list is one of the weirdest I've encountered. It's the blog's Best Places to Retire in North Carolina.

No. 1 is -- wait for it -- Morrisville. Really. It's only 5 miles from an international airport, so that pushed it to the top. As if that is what everyone is looking for in retirement.

The rest of the Top 10, in order: Mount Holly, Apex, Holly Springs, Kings Mountain, Mint Hill, Stallings, Harrisburg, Sanford and Matthews.

Charlotte ranks No. 30, below -- among others -- Spring Lake (a suburb of Fort Bragg), Indian Trail, Gastonia and Goldsboro.

The criteria the website used? Cost of living, total crime, total amenities, weather, distance from nearest international airport.

As one colleague of mine, who happens to be retired, quipped: "That is the weirdest list that I have ever come across.  I wouldn’t want to retire in any of them. I notice that the picture used for Harrisburg is the Speedway, which, of course, isn’t in Harrisburg."

And what is "good" weather? Lack of snow and ice? The hot, humid coastal town of Leland ranks No. 1. But whoever would rate "hot and humid" as desirable? Those are things you endure to be in a great place, like Charleston or Savannah, not attributes you seek out. What if you like colder climates?

And how can you rate "amenities" as if everyone wants the same things? The Olive Garden and Red Lobster may be what some retirees want, but what about those who'd rather find lots of ethnic restaurants, a symphony, art museums and good cultural offerings, in which case Kings Mountain (No. 5) is NOT a place they'd enjoy retiring to.

Maybe you don't want to have to drive everywhere for everything and want a place with sidewalks, stores and offices within an easy walk of housing, plus good transit service -- important for retirees as their ability to drive diminishes. In which case Mint Hill and Stallings (No. 6 and 7) are terrible choices.
Asheville, a magnet for retirees and young creatives alike, is down at No. 59. Hendersonville, in the mountains, is almost at the bottom of the list. Have you been to Hendersonville? Practically the whole town is a retirement center.

I've been to Spring Lake (No. 14). It's been some years but when I was there last it as a town of massage parlors, pawn shops, mobile homes and grime. (Maybe it's improved?) I've been to Asheville. Trust me, it is not even close.

Now I have to say some towns on the list are, indeed, true towns and lovely spots. No. 2 Mount Holly, on the banks of the Catawba near Charlotte, is charming. Kings Mountain is, as well, and so are plenty of the other places listed near the top of the list.

But others are placeless collections of suburban subdivisions strung together by strip shopping centers plunked along highways. If you're looking to retire to a real place, or even -- shock! -- a city, this list is misguided.